FTC says Bezos, Jassy must testify in Amazon Prime probe

FTC says Bezos, Jassy must testify in Amazon Prime probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators are ordering Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and CEO Andy Jassy to testify in the government’s investigation into Amazon Prime, rejecting the company’s complaint that the executives are being unfairly harassed in the investigation into the popular streaming and shopping service.

The Federal Trade Commission issued an order late Wednesday denying Amazon’s request to quash civil subpoenas sent in June to Bezos, the Seattle-based company’s former CEO, and Jassy. The order also sets a January 20 deadline for the completion of all testimony from Bezos, Jassy and 15 other top executives, who were also subpoenaed.

Jassy took over the helm of the online store and technology giant from Bezos, one of the world’s richest individuals, in July 2021. Bezos became executive chairman.

Amazon has not argued that the subpoenas “present an undue burden in terms of scope or timing,” FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson said in the order on behalf of the agency. However, the FTC agreed to change some provisions of the subpoenas that it recognized seemed too broad.

The FTC has been investigating since March 2021 the registration and cancellation practices of Amazon Prime, which has an estimated 200 million members worldwide.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday on the FTC’s order.

In a petition to the FTC filed last month, the company objected to the subpoenas for Bezos and Jassy, ​​saying the agency “has not identified any legitimate reason to require their testimony when it can obtain the same information, and more, from others witnesses and documents.” Amazon said the FTC was hounding Bezos, Jassy and the other executives, calling the information sought in the subpoenas “overbroad and burdensome.”

The company said it has cooperated with FTC staff to provide relevant information, offering about 37,000 pages of documents.

The investigation has expanded to include at least five other Amazon-owned subscription programs: Audible, Amazon Music, Kindle Unlimited, Subscribe & Save, and an unidentified third-party program not offered by Amazon. The supervisory authorities have asked the company to identify the number of consumers who were registered in the programs without giving their consent, including customer information.

With an estimated 150 million U.S. subscribers, Amazon Prime is a key source of revenue, as well as a wealth of customer data, for the company, which runs an e-commerce empire and bets in the cloud, personal “smart” technology and more. . Amazon Prime costs $139 a year. The service added a coveted feature this year by acquiring exclusive video rights to the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football.”

Last year, Amazon unsuccessfully asked that FTC Chairman Lina Khan step aside from separate antitrust investigations of the business, arguing that her public criticism of the company’s market power before joining the government makes it impossible for her to be impartial. Khan was a fierce critic of the tech giants Facebook (now Meta), Google and Apple, as well as Amazon. She arrived on the antitrust scene in 2017, writing an influential study titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” while a law student at Yale.

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